University partners for Grow Solar STL program

Washington University is part of a group partnering for the Grow Solar St. Louis project. It seeks to educate homeowners about installing solar panels such as these, and aims to reduce costs with bulk purchases and rebates.

The demand for residential solar energy is growing in the St. Louis area. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, enough solar has been installed in Missouri to power more than 26,000 homes, and prices for installation have fallen 32% over the last five years.

Now, there’s a new program for homeowners interested in making the switch to renewable energy: Grow Solar St. Louis. The group-purchasing program for residential solar is offered by the Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University in partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Grow Solar St. Louis is designed to bring down the cost of solar by pooling individual residents’ buying power; providing free education to get people over the learning curve; and pre-selecting a high-quality solar company through a competitive bid process to save homeowners time. StraightUp Solar, founded by alumnus Dane Glueck and based in St. Louis County, was selected for the program’s initial phase.

As more households sign up to install solar through Grow Solar St. Louis, all participants benefit from reduced costs. The program already surpassed the first benchmark of 50 kilowatts (kW) of collective solar capacity, resulting in a 1% price reduction for all participants. The program appears to be on track to surpass the second price reduction milestone of 150 kW.

A solar installation underway here ultimately will generate 2.5 megawatts of solar power, making the university one of the largest consumers of on-site solar energy in the St. Louis area. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

“Renewable energy will play a critical role in achieving the ambitious carbon-reduction targets that are needed to address climate change,” said Phil Valko, the university’s assistant vice chancellor for sustainability. “As the university increases its own solar portfolio, we are thrilled to partner with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association to develop creative solutions that make it easier for homeowners to do the same.”

Until early November, Grow Solar St. Louis is offering “Solar Power Hours” to teach the basics of solar energy, its financial implications and how the Grow Solar St. Louis program works. Washington University is hosting an upcoming “Solar Power Hour” from 6-7 p.m. Oct. 23 in Schnuck Pavilion on the Danforth Campus. Community members, faculty, staff and students are welcome.

“Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University in St. Louis are both committed to advancing sustainability in the region, so this is a win-win local partnership,” said Glenda Abney, director of the garden’s Earthways Center. “We’ve been watching for the best time to bring a solar program to the area, and that time is now, with reduced purchase costs, utility rebates and tax credits. The program that Midwest Renewable Energy Association has is so effective; we are happy to partner to bring it to St. Louis, providing the opportunity for local homeowners to engage in solar power for their own homes.”

Grow Solar St. Louis is available to residents throughout St. Louis city and county. A parallel program, Grow Solar Metro East, is available to Illinois residents.

Read more about the “Solar Power Hour” at WashU.